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Being Polite? Or Losing Part of You?

June 7, 2009

Last week I had two clients on the same day dealing with the same issue. Each of them were having experiences with family members who had very, very different beliefs than them. When my clients were interacting with their families,  often times the family member would go on and on about a topic that really irked my client. When the conversation or visit with these folks were over, my clients each felt drained, off, and just plain icky.

One of my clients, whom I’ll call Gena, has a few friends and some family members who are seriously religious, and talk about their beliefs all the time. On top of this, one of sisters regularly makes anti-Semitic comments about the folks who are currently populating her town. This makes Gena extremely uncomfortable, but instead of saying anything she generally is silent because she doesn’t want to cause trouble or get her sister angry.

My other client, whom I’ll call Carla, has a similar issue with her in-laws.  They are opinionated and very negative, and also tend to make racist comments. Carla has dinner with them about once a week; while she visits with them they often have the news blaring and are constantly talking about how horrible things are in the world and how much worse it’s going to get. She also keeps quiet; she loves her husband dearly and doesn’t want to offend his parents, who are older and not in the best health.

Both of these women suffer through their experiences without saying anything in hopes of being “good” people, yet they end up feeling negative, tired, and unhappy.  I pointed out to each of them that there is fine line between being polite and being completely untrue to yourself, and in time, they can learn to get away from those situations.

Step One

Notice when you feel very, very drained and icky after having a conversation with someone.  When you have quiet time, write down what about the conversation really bothered you, and ask yourself why you didn’t ask the person to stop making the comments that upset you.

Step Two

Look at the reasons for continuing to have a relationship with people that leave you feeling less-than-wonderful all the time. In the case of Carla, she found it very helpful to stop using the phrase “I have to visit my in-laws every week because they are my husband’s parents” to, “I choose to visit my in-laws every week because I love my husband and visiting with them is important to him.”  Stop using phrases like “I can’t” and “I have to” and replace them with more powerful phrases like “I choose to” or “I am willing to”.

Step Three

Make an agreement with yourself that you will find a way to change the subject when an uncomfortable topic comes up, and for doing so you get a reward.  For instance, if your friend makes a racist comment or goes off on a subject that feels completely draining to you, ask her a question about something completely different to divert her attention.  Or, if you’re feeling really brave, let her know the subject matter is causing you discomfort and you’d appreciate it if she could talk about something else.  Reward yourself with something you truly will enjoy, such as a bubble bath or new magazine or book; it doesn’t have to be pricey.  Do this each and every time you confront the situation!

Step Four

Take a deeper look at why you’re willing to give up yourself and your beliefs in front of other people.  If you’re a woman, you may have been raised that it’s not polite to interrupt others or object to their opinions.  This is a load of poop. Only when you are living your life from a centered, authentic place will you be truly happy and energetic, and if someone steps all over your beliefs every single time you talk to them, you’re not being true to yourself.  Besides, why are you spending so much time trying not to offend this person who is constantly offending you?

Remember, stay true to you!

Be Joyful!

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